For a guy who should be a in good mood about the whole 12-0 thing, Panthers coach Ron Rivera was fairly salty in his day-after press conference when asked about the condition of quarterback Cam Newton.
Newton went to the locker room briefly after taking a helmet-to-helmet shot from Saints linebacker Michael Mauti, but didn’t miss a play. He insisted after the game he didn’t have a concussion.
And Rivera apparently didn’t care for questions about Newton’s status Monday, after the team announced after the game that Newton had been cleared by the league’s independent neurologist.
“We follow the rules here,” Rivera said, via Bill Voth of Black and Blue Review. “Don’t question my integrity when it comes to those things. Understand that. I try to be as forthright as I can when I answer your questions. When I’m doing that, the least I could do, is get the common courtesy that I’m being believed.
“Okay, I take it very seriously and it is not up to me to make those decisions and these calls. It’s up to the doctors, just so you understand that. I’m being very upfront with this and very forward because it does bother me. I’m not the doctor. I’m not the one who makes these decisions. We have a protocol and we follow the protocol. We had a player stay out for, what, three or four weeks? And at no point in time did we force that young man onto the field because we believed him. So please, do not question me on this.”
Rivera was alluding to linebacker Luke Kuechly missing three games after his concussion in the opener as evidence that the Panthers are trying to do right by their players.
And while there’s no reason to doubt Rivera’s sincerity, the fact that Rams quarterback Case Keenum was allowed to keep playing with a concussion two weeks ago makes any such questions valid — particularly when they involve an MVP candidate.
He didn’t see it that way.
“I know what happened with the Rams, and I know coach [Jeff] Fisher talked about being in the moment of the game and not knowing – I didn’t know yesterday as far as what had happened, because when plays happen, you go to the next one,” Rivera said of Keenum’s situation. “I can see what coach Fisher’s talking about. And when he [Newton] was over on the sideline shaking his head, I didn’t see that till I saw that on the replay this morning. So as the head coach, you see certain elements of what’s going on. I didn’t see that, and I didn’t know what the whole protocol was going on until well after that game.
“So, again, as I said, I don’t know. I get the information when I get the information. So until I do, it’s hard for me to sit there and tell you anything other than what I do know.”
The problem isn’t with the integrity of any particular team. The problem is two-fold: Players are almost always (with the recent exception of Ben Roethlisberger) going to try to stay on the field even if it means lying to doctors, and the league-installed system to protect them has already failed at least once, and perhaps more often than we know.